A well formed sentence never comes as easily as insults, or curse-words. Our poverty of compliments, like currency, can't mature without some seed money. Whether you are on your way up, on your way down, or simply on your way out... Holding the door for someone can change someone's day, and a positive ripple occurs without condition. Any Simple nuance can change people slightly, just as the subtleties of an object can inspire creativity. But subtleties can be tough to identify, let alone gather in our digital age. Forming an object in your mind, misses a lot of nuance as humans were wired to consolidate patterns not context, and fill in blanks by bias. Appreciation of simple forms is lost to the robots we've become, and the nuance as it were, is the special sauce of art. Modern vision means that forms are separated cleanly from all that goes into making them, and what they should be. What do you cherish? Prejudiced, retouched, cleaned-up, weightless, without atmosphere or shadow, leaves only the flattened GIF version of what was once cherished. Gestalt efficiencies to our world view frees-up space in our crowded minds exchanging a cuddly warm bunny with a compressed cardboard cutout of a cat. Because gestalt principles already filled in all the blanks, we see a lot of our worlds alike, and we see them without considered objectivity. With our heads buried in screens, we surf select & shop shapes and colors; We befriend a cover photo, and even get romantic with a GIF. (E)fficient perception is flatter than 2D, and it is a total bore. The shopping graveyard of online detritus resting beside any dumpster, commits our historic record to the landfill in a comical sediment. Cheap-shit forms our historical record. Excavations will later reveal the archaeological absurdity of compacted crap we've consumed by GIF. Some say that not getting wrapped up in the little things -- Or fixating on what one wished for, but didn't achieve, is peaceful, even blissful. But If ignorance is truly bliss -- Then why am I so miserable contemplating dumb shit on a rainy Sunday?
If gravity let go today, the Abyss you'd fall into would be 'space', and all of the crap you owned would scatter around you like flakes in a snow-globe. The fractured jetsam (a billion tons of cheap-shit) would smack you in the face and neck. Assuming you'd showed restraint in your online life, you'd still be throttled by someone else's Shake-weight, or Shark Vacuum. And of course that wake-up call would arrive far too late. If we are edging toward the apocalypse, via A.I. and Climate Crisis, then what kind of flotsam would you prefer hit you in the head? Something nice from your shoebox of collectibles, or someone's discarded Ab-Flex?
Shouldn't postponing all plans because of lousy weather, leave me at peace to consider larger analog concepts? Perhaps take a bubble-bath? Finish some house project, build a jigsaw puzzle in my bathrobe? Or... perhaps more online shopping?, because I don't own a bathrobe.
Consider the shape of our digital world, where actual context became the faded fantasy of the digital age. Sound-bites and snap-shots support 2D scrolling for the forgeries of our forgotten authenticity. Digital consumerism is like unfolding a map of the place rather than visiting the place. Software becomes the Pumpkin Spice Latte, while Hardware is the Coffee it should have been. It's a cover-up for the daily crime of not tasting, seeing, feeling, or touching anything intrinsically valuable. Can you even trust a person who drinks shitty coffee?
We are all typically busy rushing around getting shitty coffee and such, and in spite of so many daily considerations, we often fail to recognize the patterns and the objects which connect us with our path. Since the Big Bang, this our home, our universe, even our multiverse trends toward only one end -- Exponential Complexity.
Consider the Bicycle. In over 200 years it's form has not changed significantly, if at all. They rust in a barn, deliver lunch, are decorated for parades, and picked clean beside a street sign, but they give back with no apparent conditions to whomever throws a leg over. The simplicity of their form is enviable to any young engineer. Their parts are interchangeable and the essential analog bikes don't require any owner's manual. They will (of course) have motors added, but inevitable complexities will temporarily phase out the analog bike, and this evolution will only betray its nearly primal elegance. The Bicycle may soon be regarded like the record player is today -- revered for what it once was -- Now disregarded in a fog of compelling "E" advancements -- The Marketing of Cassettes, CD's and then Spotify. The inevitable convenience of a button press, for a playlist betrays the humanity of the "Mix-Tape", or actually listening; even to the B-sides. The analog bicycle is morphing into obscurity, like the Cassette, and later the LP; becoming something else. A classic Ten-Speed has become a GIF on a webpage; and once your robo-E-bike arrives, it waits for you, props up some tools and perhaps a tarp, still an elegant potential energy, but aging ungracefully with uncharged batteries. Complexity confounds our primal understanding of just how entangled we are with the simplest objects, without giving them any thought. A Pencil, A Carrot-peeler, a Puzzle, a Pocket-Knife, or Watch. Some days I wonder why Rolex still markets such an antique idea on the back of every fucking magazine, in spite of Casio, Android, Fit-bit, and Apple. And it is because of a lack of nostalgia for certain... But it is far more than antiquarian marketing. They are selling a version of authenticity, and the opportunity to feel something timeless. To hold something analog, authentic, with a tiny heartbeat (for a fee of course) is market gold. 'Something' precious (using the other definition for the term "Gestalt") begets an object greater than the sum of it's parts. Something "Classic", with or without attached Nostalgia -- It is worthy of regard.
Considering the value of something and not its price, is an ancient lesson. The simple process begins with regarding something, and not merely possessing it. Holding something which is so essential, so elemental, like a glass of cool water; touching the cool glass, considering its weight, shape, and the edge of the rim as it closes to your lip. We sip and seldom consider how lovely a cool glass of water is to behold. From the Vinyl age, clicks and pops of the stylus danced as the diamond drives down the canyon of an elegant groove, rolling through a forest of bumps, and valleys. Driving the shoulder, spiraling inward to finish beside the label of a B-Side. The composition, simply music of course, but it was also a journey -- The pensive regard for being there, Music like braille produced by touching. And it requires our careful hand, as custodian to the tone-arm. The needle spirals to rest along the shoulder and rotates in an eddy. As metaphors go, we rush to our vacation and never consider the route, the path, a slug-a bug, nor the roadside attractions. We "Fill UP" so we "don't have to stop", This, perhaps is why a record is so mesmerizing, because it is the roadway, and the road-trip, and the intersections, the fruit-stand, Ice-cream, and the pit-stop. When the stylus hits the run-off and slows to stop... we became enriched by the travel, and also by not arriving any place at all.
Mom tossed your records in the trashcan c.1997, and decades later the "mature you" sniffles through mildewed bins of stacked cardboard in feverish re-discovery of that one "Sticky Fingers" zipper jacket you'd once taken for granted. Never giving full weight to the gestalt of it's art-form.
Slugworth will keep tugging at you to cop a feel of the new feature-laden yet soul-less E-scooter, and you will inevitably cave to the gentle pressure of a throttle. Spotify will diligently tweak your algorithm to better feed you full of 'preferences' as if stuffing geese for Foix gras. You will donate your steel wonder-bike to charity, and embrace some new-fangled transport chair... Never considering the vacuous exchange of one's soul for a fucking gobstopper.
What can be said for the tug from these foreign objects in space? The Software, whose gravity imperceptibly strips us of our souls, and leaves us weightless, floating. Adrift in an empty house, where lonely echo's are damped by meaningless crap? Balling up yards of wrapping paper should give anyone pause. Pushing back from the table with the meat sweats, The wave of our Consumerism breaks against the rubbish bin, and we wander back in from the cold with the same shallow sinking feeling. An intangible urge to own something authentic. And... Rolex can fill that void, but a "Pre-Owned Rolex" may end the search for authenticity, for the moment. The trouble with the digital age is the software; Software subtly wiping clean our hardware's heart. Those tangible objects we'd actually care to hang on to, make the circuit from precious to packed-away.. A photograph is only numbers or chemicals in a bottle until it is printed. A slide-show can only inspire, when presented at scale. Nearly everything pinched or zoomed lacks the context to be truly inspiring. A vampire casts no shadow, and without that simple anchor she is always unmoored, adrift, and eternally alone. When it is all cleaned up, it becomes nothing more than a click-able icon. Many cultures don't believe in photographs; Some even believe they are harmful -- That they may take a copy of a soul away from where they belong. Unlocking part of them from local shadows, smells, objects, and appropriate atmosphere. Whilst another image can transcend the moment, and convey far more than the subject or topic. The composition of a photo is now so easy, and ubiquitous, as to perhaps be the very definition of ubiquity, but where do they all go? How are they kept and cared for -- displayed, and cherished?
I'm Okay with the "convenience thing", (giving my soul away to the android)... but I want to be certain to keep a few things sacred, those meaningful things, close to me. I've got to thinking about what fits in the box we carry from city to city. In fairness your home is just a really large carton, but from house to house -- The proverbial shoe-box contains the things which perhaps even your spouse has never seen... or was unaware were important. If you lost your home tomorrow, what treasure was in that precious box? How would you fare knowing it was lost? Dumb junky shit, for certain... but whether the box is tiny, or figurative, it may possess some 'analogue' things. This is the box which contains or represents value. Valuable tokens can be a shell, or a shell collection, a doll, a coaster, matchbook, or a pen-knife... They are valuable because they remain loosely anchored within a place, time, and texturally enmeshed with their provenance. These analogue items have value not because of their marketability, but because they are not. They are totemistic in the least, and infinitely valued for their back-story. There is a story behind every object. The modern dilemma of which is that nobody gives a fuck about that back-story. It's all junk!
Rationally, everything not accompanied with it's contemporaneous marketing, is Junk. The spin is in the software. The hard edges of life's real Gestalts are the boundaries defining a fucking rainbow, the Pyramids, the Eifel Tower, or your record player. The real world is made of things and not fantasies about those things. Your world is brought to you by tangible objective thinking. For some, a car crash may awaken them, to the "important things" in life, and for other's there comes no shock from a catastrophe which would shake them from a video game, or their Insta-Meta-Fix. But The Company doesn't love you, and being their product means that the other actors also do not give a fuck, as long as you "LIKE" them. Which can leave one clawing back for something tangible, authentic.
Back to the analog thing... There are objects which even out of native context represent value, utility, and authenticity. They are not fake, and are no longer marketed, But the photo of something gets super fucking complex when the Philosophes get involved in their assessment, or worse the Shrinks evaluate how you should see it.
In fact, it can be said that objectivity toward anything is blind-sided by its own Gestalt.
Basic tenets of fleeting observation will "F" UP the whole perception thing leaving you struggling to find value in dark corners. In 2024 I re-upped a resolution to be mindful of the important things, and to regularly put a roll of film in -- A record on the turntable -- And to regard every rock I skip into the ocean for what it is. In plain view of everyone, I vowed again to focus on those tangible things, and not the "Likes". I'll struggle without a light meter, as I did in college, and to deliberately make things harder for myself, but I'm paying close attention to their details, and laying waste to my forcible indoctrination into the cult of Gestalt Psych.
With Gestalt Principles there are apparently a shit-ton of rules to the brevity of our vision which hijacks objectivity in attempt at making us more efficient observers. It is a 2D render of the real world, where I apparently live, but nobody knows anything about. You can skip over the science part here:
The rules as it were, are so unforgiving that we tend to forget about the Punctum, and the Product. How an orange tastes, is exchanged for "Orange", and nothing rhymes with orange.
Moving forward, much like wading through some musty records, I'd prefer to find a few things which I enjoy, and get to know them better, and even get better at them -- with them, than to get some new shit.
I'd really like to rediscover a few simple gestalts from my top drawer, which like my Leica M3 or my wife, are far more than the sum of their parts.
Recently another scuttlebutt regarding whether Steve McCurry retouched, or "Gasp" photo-shopped some of the most iconic images of his generation, puts a lens on authenticity vs. artificial... The android versus the flesh, analogue versus digital. The Jealous cardboard cutout GIF hunter, versus the Creative Renegade ...[And fuck A.I, right?].... We can banter about whether McCurry is obliged to share his potentially dirty secrets, or if he is destined to lose face, and value because he "Cloned" his work, doctoring images and dressing them up in a new EXIF, to share as fraud-ish. This is one gigantic 'sour-grapes' argument for the record books, in full stride with the envy, jealousy, and storm of divisive mud-slinging, that has become our world. This envy could re-write history and open Magnum to digital critique. I'm not sure what side of the argument I fall, nor if, "I'm not a photo Journalist..." grants amnesty and absolution for de facto fraud. If kids glued to screens were to visit a gallery and see a McCurry in person, and pick up a film camera in hopes of carrying that analogue torch forward in such a boorish digital world... Then The value of McCurry's work remains bedrock. If there is going to have to be a "Man Behind The Curtain" then let it be you, and may you be a good one.
The truth is that My Apple Watch never worked properly, and doesn't give me much pleasure, and nobody ever asks you, "Hey is that an Apple Watch"? But When I put a 21 jewel mechanical complication on my wrist, whether is was kept up someone's ass as my birthright, or not... It's polished gestalt form often starts some fascinating conversations. The vanity underlying an arsenal of token junk in my top drawer is precisely how one envisions being regarded for having bought them. This is the sizzle of marketing. Making the right choice, with meager means, also means cherishing what one owns. The currency of having a cool-ass iPhone wore off c. 1997-8, and what would be really cool right about now is being spotted chatting up an old friend on my old steel Nokia slider, with a built in FM radio. Not sure If I can get than to work on 5G. ...And NO, I don't have a Rolex.
"When Talent Fails, Indignation Writes the Verse" -Juvenal
But if You see a Steve McCurry Photo in person, or you Listen to Tom Waites' "Early Years Volume One", on Vinyl, (because it is not available on Spotify)... Or if you struggle to clean the Carb on your vintage Beemer..., Then you know the value, and perhaps passion of Gestalt Objectification.
And Regardless... If you didn't wade through the monsoon floods holding 27 pounds of analog camera gear over your head to frame the shot of a man rescuing his only means of income from the flooding... (and you are ready to crucify McCurry for decades of magic making), Then you have a lot of soul searching to do.
And if it's not interesting, then you are probably not close enough.
McCurry Post Script:
“Photojournalists can debate the issues until they’re blue in the face, but the public at large simply doesn’t care. The public believes images are manipulated because they are. And they don’t discern between a photoshopped magazine cover of Kim Kardashian and a news photo from Afghanistan. Why should they? They only care whether the photo moved them during the 0.5s they viewed it. Internet culture demands our outrage. We align or distance ourselves from Team McCurry instead of focusing on the real matter at hand: Can we produce an image that our intended audience believes they cannot make? And does it make them want to consume more? If “everyone is a photographer,” then professional photographers will only succeed if they offer a unique and “better” product to their intended audience, which translates into a high quality image and good service.”( )...
“McCurry has an audience. Afghan Girl is so ingrained in popular memory that I’ve seen it used multiple times as a Halloween costume. I can’t think of another photo that has reached that threshold. Castigating him for having the imperialist eye of a white male? Totally valid, but remember he’s a 66 year old white male from Darby, PA who helped define the very genre he’s criticized of shooting within. This is akin to criticizing Bruce Springsteen for having an 80s rock sound.”
MAY 18, 2016 ALLEN MURABAYASHI
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.